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Two days of the Condor begins at BWI Airport

For less than $500, your next craving for authentic German bratwurst and a pint of hefeweizen could be satisfied in about eight hours.

Frankfurt, Germany-based Condor Airlines began flights to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Monday, giving BWI travelers direct access to Frankfurt Airport, a major European hub.

The airline, which caters to vacationers, is a subsidiary of London-based Thomas Cook Group PLC. Condor will make twice-weekly trips between Baltimore and Frankfurt until October. Flights will resume next summer, according to airline and airport officials.

Paul J. Wiedefeld, executive director at BWI, said the airport tried “for years” to get Condor to start service to and from BWI. About 260 passengers were due in from Frankfurt Monday evening, where they were to be greeted by German food, beer and live music at BWI’s international concourse.

“Advance sales are strong,” Wiedefeld said. “It shows, right off the bat, the desire to get to this destination for their customers. Obviously, at the airport it will generate dollars. … That is going to trickle all throughout the whole local economy” through restaurant visits and hotel bookings.

BWI is expecting the new service to generate $500 million in revenue for the airport between now and October, including money spent on parking, concessions and souvenirs, plus the sale of fuel to the airline, Wiedefeld said.

One-way tickets from BWI to Frankfurt will start at $428.99 for economy seating, $623.99 for premium economy and $1,078.99 for comfort class, equivalent to a business class seat.

Johannes Winter, a Condor spokesman, said the airline would wait and see how well seats sold before looking to expand its operations at BWI.

“We are always looking at the bookings and deciding upon the numbers and the predictions,” Winter said. “If we operate a route or flight destination … we are looking at the potential. This year, we will fly the summertime. After having reviewed and looked at the numbers, there’s always the possibility to make it a year-round service.”

Condor also flies from Frankfurt to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Las Vegas, Seattle and Fairbanks, Alaska. BWI was chosen as the airline’s mid-Atlantic hub over other Washington, D.C.-area airports because of its access to mass transportation, Winter said. Flight attendants will sell train tickets from BWI to the District while in the air.

“Baltimore is a very good gate to Washington,” he said. “It has advantages compared to other airports. You have a very short way to the capital, but also the area is nice for people going on vacation. It’s a born destination for Condor.”

Wiedefeld said sale of departure tickets on Condor flights were matching arrivals in the early going.

“We’re a strong market here, we’re a very wealthy region and [have] a strong economy here, and it’s generating traffic going the other way, probably more than they were expecting,” Wiedefeld said. “What we’ve found, so far, is that it’s much … closer to being equal.”

Winter said that could be because Frankfurt may be a starting point for many European vacations. Flights connect from Frankfurt to Paris, Moscow and other popular locales, Winter said.

“Frankfurt is a very nice city, but you can also take the train and go to Munich or Düsseldorf, or wherever you want to go,” he said. “We do expect a large amount of passengers coming from Baltimore to Germany.”

Monday was the start of a busy holiday week for BWI. Airport officials are planning to announce a new domestic carrier Tuesday morning. Wiedefeld declined to name the airline before Tuesday’s official announcement, but offered one hint.

“You’ll love the color schemes,” he said.

In 2011, a record year for BWI, 22.4 million passengers flew in and out of the airport, 583,321 of which were on international flights. That represented an 11.2 percent increase from 2010.

In April this year — the most recent month for which flight data has been analyzed — 1.95 million flew through BWI, 61,009 of which were international travelers. That number represented a 24.7 percent increase over April 2011.